The American Civil Liberties Union announced Tuesday that it will support a bill to limit local law enforcement’s involvement in enforcing immigration in Maryland.
The Maryland Trust Act would limit police authority to hold people on immigration detainers, also called “immigration holds,” which are issued by federal customs.
Under current law, local police may hold suspects or convicted criminals for an additional 48 hours while they wait for an agent from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to come collect them.
According to the ACLU, these detainers are a waste of resources, and create tension between immigrants and the local police force.
“The ACLU is calling on Maryland to join other states in deciding that complying with these requests is an inefficient use of our limited law enforcement resources and results only in ripping apart our communities,” said ACLU attorney Sirine Shebaya.
Senator Victor Ramirez is also fighting to pass the new bill. In the past, he has successfully fought to allow some undocumented immigrants the right to have a driver’s license and pay in-state tuition rates, reducing the cost of their higher education.
The ACLU website further explains the organization’s position on the act: “Compliance with these detainers is not mandatory, yet the report details the startling rate at which many counties detain immigrants with no greater offense than a traffic violation - effectively transforming their local law enforcement officials into proxy immigration agents.”
According to the ACLU, most people held on detainers are guilty only of traffic offenses or other trivial misdemeanors. They also note that other local legislatures across the United States have already abandoned the practice of holding immigrants on detainers when they have committed no crime.
Currently, police may choose whether or not to hold people with detainers at their discretion, resulting in a lack of uniformity with the system.